Earth-Centered Affects

Given that this monograph is philosophically oriented, the risk presents itself that Earth-centeredness is a purely/basically cognitive position-stance devoid of any affective states that co-inform it. However, many biocentric and ecocentric writers have foregrounded a variety of eco-feelings that drive this anti-anthropocentric worldview-practice. After all, eco-centeredness does not only call on us to consider the non-human but also inspires us to feel certain ways toward it. Given the parameters of the study, I only briefly retrace some of the most decisive affects associated with ecocentrism. To begin with, we note the wide array of foregrounded affective dispositions, ranging, for example, from “affirmation” (Mathews), “regard” (Leopold, McLaughlin), “respect” (Leopold, Taylor, Plumwood, Mathews, Schmidtz [2011]), “reverence” (Muir), “care” (Callicott, Warner, White) and “love” (Leopold, Kolston, Mathews). Now, due to a variety of factors (personal dispositions, the way our lives unfold, opportunities or lack of opportunities for learning and development, etc.), different people will respond differently to the non-human. So, in a sense, all of these responses are “valid.” However, I think we should first of all cultivate the minimal, “bassline” response of an abiding recognition of the non-human other. Acknowledgment of the other is a/the pre-condition for meaningful interaction with the other. This is not to say that we should always and everywhere be actively acknowledging the range of non-human objects around us - this would leave little time for us to do anything else; it’s more of an abiding attitude or disposition than a constant activity: an ethos of awareness. Indeed, we could posit that all of the other affective responses cited earlier - affirmation, respect, love, etc. - flow on from this basic disposition of deep recognition.

Of course, the most exemplary eco-affective state is love. To love the non-human, even the abject and vile (discussed as we proceed) - would be the ultimate ecocentric comportment. We recall here the words of the “Canticle of the Sun” by Francis of Assisi, whose love for the non-human rivals that of familial love: “sister moon,” “brother sun.” Leopold also heavily foregrounds the affect of love, which is refreshing in the context of mainstream academic discourse, which often tends to be dry and detached. For instance, Peter Singer - the eminent Australian animal-rights philosopher - strenuously declares at the start of his Animal Liberation that he “didn’t ‘love’ animals” (1975: ix; for powerful critiques, refer to, e.g., Callicott 1989: 53; Donovan 1990: 351). Singer’s rejection of emotion-informed argumentation is both understandable and regrettable, given that modern philosophical discourse typically excludes love from its exchanges, simultaneously forgetting/ignoring the fact that philo-sophia is itself a loving of wisdom.

In any case, Earth-centeredness does not demand that we love the world: I think that what is required is a basic but profound recognition of the equality of the non-human, an acknowledging that propels humankind to maximize non-human unfolding and minimize our interventions.

 
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